Lisa Moser, BS, with Kansas State Research and Extension, compares kids leaving home for the first time to calves leaving the ranch and going to a stocker operation. Both need to be prepared for the next stage in their lives for maximum performance. Calves transitioning off the farm should be on a good preconditioning program and all procedures should be performed while the calf is still nursing to limit stress.
Dehorning should be done in the first few days of life, before the horn bud attaches. All vaccinations should be given while the calf is still nursing, as the calf will respond better. Stressed calves removed from the mother and then vaccinated have decreased immunity and may not respond to vaccines. Calves will bounce back more quickly if deworming and castration are performed while the calves are still nursing, rather than being removed from the mother first and then castrated, wormed, vaccinated and shipped.
Nutrition is another concern. A calf taken off the mother and shipped to a feedlot is not familiar with eating grain or drinking out of a trough. Dehydrated calves won’t eat well, lowering their immunity. Creep feeding small amounts of grain and providing water troughs instead of stock tanks to calves on a pasture help calves transition to the next life stage and may bring a higher price for the producer.